When you are camping, you want the best gear, but it needs to be functional and easy to carry. Today, there are many options for your sleeping gear. People camp year round, and different seasons, altitudes, and geographical locations might require different types of sleeping gear. With all of the choices that are available, many campers aren’t sure where to start.
The bottom line is that your personal budget, preference, and camping style will all factor into whether you will want a quilt, a sleeping bag, a blanket, or some combination of them all when you are camping. Each one has benefits, and each one has drawbacks as well.
In fact, you may make use of a few different options if you camp a lot throughout the year. This article will explore all of your options so that you can better decide which one is best for you.
The Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags have been a part of camping since long before quilts and blankets were made. Over the years, technology has improved sleeping bags to the point where you can find the perfect sleeping bag for any situation. Sleeping bags protect you from the cold, they help you to sleep better when you are camping, and they can even provide benefits that boost your immune system and have the energy for strenuous hikes.
Today, you can choose how warm you want your sleeping bag to be. They often come with ratings, which tell you what temperatures they are best suited for. Most sleeping bags used to go by the European Standard EN13537 rating system, which breaks them down into three categories based on temperature: T comfort, T Limit, and T Extreme.
Today, they use the International Standards Organization (ISO) rating system, which is nearly identical. It will list a comfort temperature and a lower limit temperature. The comfort temperature is based on the average adult woman getting a good night’s sleep wearing only a base layer of clothing. The lower limit rating is based on the lowest temperature that an average adult male can handle and still get a good night’s sleep.
This is simply a guideline because people have varying body temperatures, and the comfort sleeping bags are bulkier than the limit bags because it takes more filling to make them more comfortable. In addition, sleeping bags come in different shapes and sizes:
- Rectangular: room for arms and legs to stretch out; often can be unzipped and used as a quilt
- Mummy: fits snug, very warm
- Modified Mummy: Also called semi-rectangular, it has a variety of shapes, mixture of warmth and roominess
- Couple Bag: best for couples
- Child’s Sleeping Bag: smaller and more affordable
Sleeping bags come with two different types of insulation. They can have down fill or synthetic fill. Synthetic fill is more affordable, dries fast, is non-allergenic, and it continues to insulate when it is damp.
Down fill is lightweight, and it does a good job when the weather is cold and dry. They normally come with a treatment so that they are weather resistant, which will protect it in damp conditions. These bags compress well and last for many years.
Camping quilts are ultra lightweight, and they are able to cut the weight without taking away any of the warmth. They are similar to a sleeping bag, but without the heavier parts such as the zipper, the hood, and the back.
Quilts are very versatile because you can cover yourself on a warmer night, but you can also strap them down to hold in the heat on really cold nights. Quilts are so versatile because you have all kinds of sleeping options, and they can be used year round when you are camping.
In addition, quilts offer breathability. When your body overheats, it cools itself down by sweating. Because the sweat makes you wet, it can actually cause your body to chill when it is cold outside. Then, you begin shivering, and your body has to work overtime to warm itself back up again. This is a physically exhausting process.
Finally, you don’t have to use the quilt by itself all the time. You might use it on its own in the summer, and you could add it to a sleeping bag for extra warmth when it is very cold in the winter. The quilt offers so many options, that it is a huge asset to have one.
Camping blankets are similar to quilts, but there are a few differences. They tend to be lighter weight and good options for summer camping. They do not normally come with the strap to tie down for the colder temperatures, and they can be a little smaller.
They will add comfort if you use them with a sleeping bag when it is colder outside. Blankets come in down varieties, but they also come in wool, cotton, and fleece. The wool will keep you the warmest in colder weather, while any of the others are great lightweight options during the warmer months.
Camping blankets are definitely useful, but you need to decide whether it will be warm enough for you or if you want to bring along extra equipment, such as a sleeping bag.
Comparison of Sleeping Bags, Quilts, and Blankets When Camping
Each one of these has benefits, and you need to understand the differences so that you can select the equipment that you need when you are camping. You may even want a combination of more than one of these items.
- Sleeping Bag: Sleeping bags normally have a weatherproof nylon or polyester shell with fill. The fill can be down or synthetic.
- Quilt: Camping quilts are similar to sleeping bags, and they are normally made with a weatherproof nylon shell and either synthetic or down fill.
- Camping Blanket: A camping blanket can mimic a small quilt with a weatherproof nylon shell and either synthetic or down fill, but they also come in wool, fleece, and cotton.
- Sleeping Bag: Sleeping bags have a zipper up the side, and they often have a hood to keep your entire body warm. They come in a number of shapes and sizes as well.
- Quilt: Quilts are normally rectangular, and they do not usually have a zipper. They come with nylon straps so that they can be tied down to hold in warmth during colder weather.
- Blanket: Blankets are normally rectangular, and they don’t usually have any extra features.
Weight and Size
- Sleeping Bag: Sleeping bags take up the most space of the three items. Their added hood and backside makes them bulkier.
- Quilt: The quilt is lightweight, and it takes up very little space.
- Blanket: The blanket is even smaller, and it is very compact.
How They Work
- Sleeping Bag: Because you zip yourself inside of a sleeping bag, it can be very warm. They come with different ratings, so you can choose one for colder temperatures or one that is lighter for the warmer months. The sleeping bag traps the air inside, and your body heat warms it. The inside is a small space, so it will warm quickly.
- Quilt: A quilt is a little different because it is not enclosed. In warmer months, it can be used as a light blanket, and you do not need to stay inside of it. When it is frigid outside in the winter, you can strap it down, and it will trap the heat similarly to a sleeping bag without being so hot that you sweat.
- Blanket: The blanket is just a layer to throw over yourself for some extra warmth. It works well during warmer weather or as a liner for your sleeping bag or quilt when it is colder outside.
Advantages of Sleeping Bags, Quilts, and Camping Blankets
Sleeping bags, quilts, and blankets are all useful in various ways, and each one comes with its own set of advantages.
- They come in many shapes and sizes, so you will find the one that is right for you.
- You can unzip the side to use it the way you would a quilt or a blanket.
- They come with many different levels of insulation.
- If you have a down allergy, they come with synthetic fill that warms you.
- They provide full body protection.
- They provide extra comfort.
- They are compact and lighter than sleeping bags.
- They are versatile.
- You can use them as a cover, or strap them down for extra warmth.
- They come with down or synthetic fill.
- They are not restrictive.
- They are very lightweight and compact.
- They can function as a cover in the summer and a liner for your sleeping bag during colder weather.
- They are easy to carry.
Drawbacks of Sleeping Bags, Quilts, and Camping Blankets
While each of these items are useful and provide you with comfort when you are sleeping out in the wilderness, they each have their drawbacks, as well.
- Sleeping bags are heavier and bulkier, which can be inconvenient if you are hiking a long distance to your campsite.
- If you toss and turn at night, you might get tangled up in your sleeping bag.
- Because of the way sleeping bags keep you warm, it is possible to overheat and sweat, which will make you cold and uncomfortable.
- They can be restrictive.
- People can have allergies to down, but there are plenty of synthetic fill options available.
- They don’t wrap all the way around your body, so your back might get cold.
- In frigid temperatures, you may need extra protection for your head.
- They are small.
- They don’t do a great job of keeping you warm on their own in very cold weather.
How to Choose the Right Sleeping Bag
When you are choosing a sleeping bag, it can be overwhelming because there are so many choices. It is important to narrow it down, and it’s much easier than it seems. First, you need to decide whether you are buying a sleeping bag for camping or for hiking. The difference is that you will want a lighter-weight and less bulky sleeping bag if you are going to do a lot of hiking. Sleeping bags come in different shapes, sizes, and weights depending on what activity is your main focus.
Camping sleeping bags are heavier and bulkier, and they are made with comfort in mind. They tend to be a little less expensive, and they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The most important thing to consider is the temperature rating because you want to be sure to have the right one for your camping trips. Make sure that you buy a sleeping bag that has a minimum temperature that is not above the minimum temperature at your campsite.
Backpacking sleeping bags are lighter and more compact. They compress to be very small for ease when you are hiking long distances. They are more expensive, but they make your trip a lot easier. When you are looking, again, the temperature rating is the key. If you are looking for a sleeping bag while you are Alpine Climbing, you will want to be sure to look for water resistance and warmth that is sufficient for your trip.
When you are deciding between down and synthetic fill, you need to keep several things in mind. If you have a down allergy, then you have to go with synthetic.
Down fill uses the down feathers that are closest to a duck or goose’s skin. They are what keeps them warm. Sleeping bags are measured in terms of fill power, and the higher the quality of the feathers, the higher the fill power. In addition, higher fill power sleeping bags are more expensive.
Down fill is able to last a long time and continue to provide warmth. In a way, this offsets the high price tag that comes with a quality down sleeping bag. In addition, down sleeping bags have higher compressibility than synthetic, which makes them better suited for hiking and backpacking.
The downside of down is that when it gets wet, especially if it is soaked in a rainstorm or on a river trip, it loses all of its ability to keep you warm. Technology has enabled some weatherproofing of these bags, but it doesn’t work 100%.
In addition, there are people who are opposed to down for ethical reasons because it comes from animals. You can look for manufacturers who use ethical down suppliers, and then you will know that animals weren’t treated cruelly in the process of making the sleeping bag.
Synthetic fill is less expensive than down, and different companies make their own different types of synthetic fill. There are two main types, which are short staple fibers and long continuous filaments. They work well, but they aren’t as durable as down and won’t last as long.
In addition, synthetic fill sleeping bags are less compressible than down. However, they hold up better in wet conditions, and they do maintain some warmth even when they are wet. This combined with the more attractive price tag has drawn many consumers to this type of fill.
How to Choose the Right Quilt
If you have decided to buy a quilt for camping, you can use it in place of a sleeping bag almost every time, and there are different options as well. The first thing you want to do is make sure that the quilt is big enough to cover you. You may only use it as a cover in warmer weather, but if it gets cold, you will want to strap it down to keep you warm.
Some quilts come with a neck collar, which is a good option if you are going to camp in colder weather. Quilts come with either down or synthetic fill, so you want to look at the differences above and choose the one that is best for you.
You also want to look at the weight because one of the main reasons to buy a quilt is that they are less bulky than a sleeping bag. You might want to avoid the overly heavy quilts that use heavy, low-quality materials, and you can determine this by looking for a quilt that is under 24 ounces or 680 grams.
Make sure that the quilt comes with straps if you ever might consider camping when it is cold outside. This is one of the features that allows a quilt to work in place of a sleeping bag.
How to Choose a Blanket
You need to know how you will use the camping blanket first. What material you choose will depend on whether it will be your primary sleeping gear or serve as a liner for your sleeping bag. Wool is great for keeping you very warm, while down or synthetic fill blankets function much like a small quilt. Fleece works as a light cover or a liner, and cotton is really best as a liner. Make sure it is compact for easy traveling.